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🕰️ AgeTech is for All Ages: A Conversation with Rick Robinson of AARP Innovation Labs
Why collegiate entrepreneurs should care about one of the fastest growing markets in the U.S.
I recently had the chance to chat with Rick Robinson - AARP Innovation Labs’ VP of Product and Startup Engagement - about the emerging field of AgeTech. In this wide-ranging conversation, we cover the immense market opportunity on the horizon, types of startups/solutions that fall under the AgeTech umbrella, and reasons why a younger generation of entrepreneurs should take note of this space.
Hope you enjoy and learn a little something new!
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So what comes to mind when you think of the biggest emerging markets for collegiate entrepreneurs to tackle?
Crypto? Of course.
AgeTech? Absolu - … wait, what’s AgeTech?
If you’re asking that question now, you’re not alone. But it’s time to become familiar with one of the fastest growing market segments in the country. And one of the most renowned advocacy organizations for folks 50 and older - the American Association of Retired Persons (or simply AARP) - is leading the charge in making this market more accessible than ever before.
In short, the forthcoming AgeTech Collaborative™ from AARP thinks of AgeTech as products and services helping people solve the most pressing issues as we age.
According to AARP data, there are currently over 108 million Americans 50+ years old, a number expected to continue to grow over the next decade to the tune of 19 million, vs. a growth of only 6 million for the 18-49 population.
Furthermore, the economic contributions from the 50+ crowd was calculated to be $8.3 trillion in 2018 and projected to more than triple by the year 2050, when even the forever-young Gen Z will start to find themselves in this bracket.
Using these definitions and statistics, its easy to see why AgeTech should catch the eye of any young entrepreneur looking to build solutions for a market that is primed to skyrocket.
Another reason? The AgeTech market is a cross-cutting, ever-evolving space that will continue to morph in order to meet the needs of an increasingly tech-savvy and active generation. We’re not just talking about building IOT pill dispensers here.
Earlier, I listed AR/VR and crypto as two markets that most would agree offer exciting opportunities for younger entrepreneurs. But what about companies that make the crypto space more accessible to the 50+ crowd? That’s AgeTech. Or how about a mixed-reality device geared towards helping connect family members across generations? That’s AgeTech as well.
Below you will find a snippet of my conversation with Rick Robinson - the VP of Product and Startup Engagement for AARP’s Innovation Labs - where he is working on building the AgeTech Collaborative™, a coming hub for all businesses interested in being a part of the the AgeTech ecosystem.
Let’s start off with an easy one, Rick - who are you and what do you do?
My name is Rick Robinson and I am VP of Product and Startup Engagement for AARP at its AARP Innovation Labs in Washington, DC. I have a sort of long history in media and product development and innovation, beginning with editing the leading magazine on all things “online” in the early ‘90s to 10 years of innovation at AOL in the areas of local, mobile and social, followed by a couple startups and product & content leadership roles at places like NatGeo and Politico. I am also an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Georgetown University, where I get to help some really sharp people suss out their future projects.
What is AgeTech and why should young entrepreneurs care?
AgeTech encompasses many areas across a broad landscape. You might hear “age” and think, “oh, this is about solutions to problems that are not really relevant to me, or at least not as in my field of knowledge… or, these are products for a small sector of people like my grandmother who needs assistance getting around.” And frankly I’d blame nobody for that narrow view. It’s actually what’s exciting to some entrepreneurs, including myself: the opportunity to challenge assumptions with eye-opening facts.
The reality is AgeTech, as I look at it, involves products, services and underlying technology that allows us all to lead the live we choose as we get older. For example, modern FinTech solutions that help people in their 20s plan and save for the far-off future (it comes fast!). And similar FinTechs that help with student costs in hopes of alleviating long term debt. Social engagement tools like VR that can being cross-generational audiences together in virtual environments. Products that help caregivers be able to better manage the assistance they provide for those in need. AgeTech is really about the spectrum of aging from youth to 100+ and the incredible new tools that are being hatched to help people manage self-care and that of others through that journey.
The over-arching point is that even if you focused only on people age 50 and over, you’re still looking at a sector worth over $9 trillion in 2018 and projected to jump to $28 trillion in 2050. That’s an enormous market providing an incredible opportunity to young entrepreneurs to explore.
(More data can be found here: https://longevityeconomy.aarp.org)
What are a few of the companies in the space as an example?
At the Innovation Lab we’re involved with a lot of startups and support many of them in lots of ways. I mentioned VR before and we’ve worked with a couple great companies pushing the boundaries like Rendever and XR Health. Telehealth and telemedicine have seen lots of activity, especially following Covid. A few examples include Tembo Health, Omcare, Mighty Health, Nonnatech and others including what some of the big companies are working on with Amazon Alexa and Google Home. And there are modern “point” solutions like FallCall, Trust&Will and Braze Mobility.
If interested you can take a look at more here: AgeTech Directory
It’s sometimes hard to get to market fit unless you’ve got some funding…. Are investors interested in AgeTech?
I cannot speak on behalf of all venture capitalists of course, but I do talk to many of them and have a couple observations. VCs are always looking for promising opportunities and many like to be ahead of the game; some like to be in first while others are a bit more cautious and look for track records and trends. But overall they are after the same things: a strong return.
It’s clear to me, FWIW, and to some prominent funds, that the financial opportunity is there (call it the demand) and now the modern solutions – tech and even analog – need to catch up (the supply). The opportunity for creative entrepreneurs approaching an enormous market in need of modernization will most surely drive interest among people looking to fund them.
In many ways this space is untapped; we just need smart ambitious founders to go after it.
So what kind of work are you doing through AARP Innovation Labs to make AgeTech more accessible to entrepreneurs?
At the Innovation Labs we help accelerate the growth of startups tackling society’s most pressing issues as we age. We run pitch competitions and challenges to source talented startup founders and help them accelerate their core business, identify new opportunities, and ultimately tap into the massive age 50+ economy we’ve been discussing. We’ve got a tight team of UX, product, business, marketing, events and design thinking experts made up of former founders and recent grads all coming together to fulfill the mission and support AgeTech startups.
Finally - if a company wanted to pitch a product solution to you, where would they go?
Good question, and something we get asked all the time. For now the best place is on our site at https://aarpinnovationlabs.org/work-with-us/
Thanks for your time, Rick! Hope we inspired some student entrepreneurs to think about how they can innovate in the AgeTech space.
Likewise - take care, Kevin.
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Next week I’ll be posting my October edition of Coach’s Corner which will round up all of the funding opportunities, e-ship news, and more. If you’ve got some suggestions, or want to get in touch to promote your venture or an opportunity, you can let me know below.
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